A file image of Russian President Vladimir Putin meeting President of Central African Republic Faustin Archange Touadera in Saint Petersburg in May 2018 (Courtesy: Kremlin.ru)
Poor but extremely rich in natural resources, the landlocked Central African Republic (CAR) in the heart of Africa has urged Russia to establish a permanent military base on its territory.
The Russian presence in the crisis-ridden country has been gradually increasing since the last batch of French soldiers, stationed in its former colony since the brutal 2013 civil war, left the capital Bangui in December.
As the Russian flag was raised at the former French military base on May 9, it has been confirmed by both countries that there are now almost 2000 Russian citizens in the troubled country – called “military instructors” by Moscow and “mercenaries” from the Wagner Group by the West.
In an interview to leading Russian daily Izvestia published on Monday, CAR’s ambassador to Moscow Leon Dodonu-Punagaza said that his country now needs a Russian military base “with 5,000 to 10,000 soldiers” as they go full steam ahead on increasing the military-technical cooperation.
“It must go on. However, this causes dissatisfaction in some countries. In recent weeks, when Russia delivered six military aircraft to us, it was the French who began to resent, yelling and yelling. But this is not our business, we are interested in cooperation with Russia,” said the diplomat.
Violence in the fragile country – known for its diamond mining regions and rich mineral, oil and gold deposits – escalated after Faustin-Archange Touadera was elected president for a second five-year term in 2020.
“As a result of this insecurity, President Touadera called for international security assistance from all partners, including the Russian Federation government, which facilitated the deployment of Wagner Group forces,” mentions the US State Department’s latest Country Reports on Human Rights Practices.
Meanwhile, Russian President Vladimir Putin continues to push for increasing Russian-African cooperation in all dimensions – politics, security, economy, science, technology, cultural and humanitarian spheres.
CAR’s appeal comes right ahead of the second Russia-Africa Summit scheduled to be held in Saint Petersburg from July 26, an event which will be attended by heads of state and government of the African continent, high-ranking delegations, heads of major sub-regional associations, and business representatives.
The Summit’s first edition, held in Sochi in October 2019, saw the participation of 45 countries from the African continent as well as seven regional organisations, including the African Union and the African Export-Import Bank.
It is not just CAR that is witnessing an increasing Russian footprint. From the Horn of Africa to South Africa, Russia is building new partnerships and consolidating old ones by asserting that Africa can be a true and full-fledged center of emerging and multipolar world order.
Earlier this week, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov assured his Somalian counterpart Abshir Omar Jama after talks in Moscow that Russia is ready to meet the Somali Army’s requirements in equipment to wipe out terror groups like Al-Shabaab and al-Qaeda.
On Monday, Lavrov travelled to the Kenyan capital of Nairobi and announced that a cargo of 30,000 tonnes of fertilizers dispatched by Russia has arrived at the port of Mombasa.
“Recently, an African leader said that without the removal of barriers to Russian fertilizer next year, Africa will face famine,” said the Russian Foreign Minister assuring that despite the blockades, Moscow will continue to help countries in need, primarily on the African continent.